expat

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In 2012, my family and I packed up our bags and moved overseas permanently. By permanently, I mean we obtained visas as Permanent Residents in a brand new country – the United Arab Emirates. My husband’s work meant that we were to reside in Dubai and in 2015, we still call this place our second home.

 

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You always miss home. You always get a pang when family back home are doing something fun and nostalgia runs wild when loneliness is rife (usually during holiday season and kids hitting a certain milestone. Photos also trigger tears).

 

There are also times that you will feel like a foreigner, especially when you asked for tomato sauce or when people snicker at your use of the term ‘thongs’. However, there are 5 main reasons to counter-argue any depressing feelings you might have when you move abroad.

 

1/ Making friends.

 

Especially in a transient place like Dubai, you will master the skill of making new friends and saying goodbye to friends. Ofcourse with meeting new friends comes learning new things and experiencing different cultures. My friends nationalities range and I have met people from every single continent in one birthday party event. Do you realise how large the world is? You won’t, until you leave Australia and move abroad.

 

 

 

2/ You will learn about the literal meaning of unpacking your bags.

 

This is a big statement, I know, but it’s valid. In my first year away, I waited for happiness to come and knock on my door. I was in a brand new place, with magical opportunities at my doorstep. You would think joy would rain on me, right? Wrong.

 

I realised that the moving part wasn’t the hard element. I needed to get outside of my box and start living. I needed to put my old life behind me and start this new chapter. Old habits die hard, but I kid you not, they do diminish. I order with an American accent (no one understands Aussies) and I love the monarchy here. Crazy, I know.

 

It took me nine months before I purchased my first pot plant and it was then I realised that I kept worrying about not staying here. I kept wondering about when we would pack up and move. I made the choice to embrace the new opportunities that lay in front of me and put my Australian life on the shelf.

 

 

3 years later......

To a new beginning

To a new beginning

 

<—- The plant today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3/ You will have a TON of time to spend with you spouse/partner and children.

 

This is especially the case if back home you had to divide your time amongst 497 extended family members. When we first arrived, we just stared at each other and thought “HOW MUCH TIME!!!” So, we did things we never would have managed too. We took the kids to the desert for a picnic, we travelled (see next point), we played board games every single night for a year, we hung up the phone every evening (due to time difference) and we were free.

 

Eid mornings were pretty special – the children were able to come with us to the mosque and were able to open their gifts quietly and play with them.

 

As for marriage/relationship, it is an incredible booster. It doesn’t get monotonous, don’t worry. You begin to appreciate your partner because they become the foundation to your life. It’s deep.

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4/ Travel.

Being in the middle of the world (and not the bottom) is INCREDIBLE for your travel desires. My 10 year old son’s passport is pretty impressive and I am proud to have ventured to places I could only have dreamed off.

 

In our second year of living in Dubai, we decided to Road Trip around the UAE. Before you scoff at the small size of the country, you cannot put into words how it feels to jump into a wadi surrounded by caves, camp on a beach or meet remote Bedouins.

 

In 2014, we trekked through 5 European countries and with 3 kids it was quite a feat. I will never forget riding our bikes past the Amsterdam Canals and picking up Danish scrolls in Copenhagen. There was the time we were stranded in Sweden, stuck in a massive rainstorm without shelter. Or the time we felt heaven on earth at Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives. Did I mention how cheap tickets are over here?

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5/ The value of family.

 

Being far makes you softer, your edges become less jagged and it’s marvelous therapy for a frazzled mum-of-3 (me) and a corporate junkie (hubby). We stopped groaning when our mothers called, and realised the importance of hearing about small, bizarre stories of childhood our fathers retold us. We prayed for Skype calls like someone prays for the lottery and when we receive a photo of family, we dissect it like we are in a laboratory.

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If the opportunity arises, go for it.

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C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S.

You are probably reading this because you are inundated with facts and figures and nerves about moving to the best city in the world. The city that only dreams big, and literally too. It wins every single Guinness Book of World Record.

—[Random fact for you: Dubai, the city of gold, made the world’s longest 22-carat hand-made gold chain measuring a total of 5.522 kilometres. Moving on.]—

I’m going to be straight with you and tell you all about what to expect. You’re welcome.

1/ When you become A Dubai Person, you will always, always, always, always start your conversation with: “Where are you from?” and “How long have you been here?”

 

 

 

2/ Expect some traffic jams. A LOT OF TRAFFIC JAMS.

 

3/ You will never be able to go to  a public toilet in another country again.

4/ Carrying your groceries? Pushing your trolley of goods to the car? Assembling your bookshelf? NEVER AGAIN.

 

5/ You will never, ever have to cook again.

6/ Your accent will change. It’ll be a mix of Arabic, Philipino, Russian and British. Add a splash of American.

 

7/ Sometime between your 1-8 month of arrival, you will stop expecting people to give you their addresses. Landmarks and famous buildings will be enough information for you to be able to navigate to their home. YOU WILL HATE GOOGLE MAPS.

8/ Warning, Warning. You have been warned: ETA of terrible home sickness 6-10 month period.

 

9/ When you do go back “home” you will want to come back. You have caught Dubai Fever. Be careful, after 3 years you will never go back.

10/ If you are a parent, you will hunt down places at school as if your life depends on it. HUNT IT DOWN.

11/ If you are not a parent, you will still hunt down places at school as if your life depends on it. (Some schools have a 3 year waiting period. Insanely popular schools have messages on their crappy websites about 2045 being full.)

 

12/ When you get to Dubai, this will be you upon seeing the prices of things.

13/ After 6 months, this will be you.

14/ This will be your reaction every single time you see prices for homes for sale or rent.

 

15/ Don’t worry. YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND why the landlord needs 1 cheque. And you will never understand how they expect people to have 1 cheque ready for a whole year’s rent.

 

16/ Bring every single document with you. Marriage licence, change of surname licence even your pen licence from primary school. They need everything here. AND make sure it is all certified. Then get ready for them to ask you for a document NOT on the list.

17/ Going to Westfield will feel boring, after Dubai Mall.

 

18/ Resaturants. They will seem less glamorous to you. Be careful, Pierre Herme is just an everyday thing here. #justsaying

 

19/ You will learn that Dubai has 2 seasons. 1. HOT and 2. WE-ARE-2-INCHES-AWAY-FROM-THE-SUN-HOT.

 

20/ Air Conditioning will become a norm. In fact, you will need a jacket in Dubai only for indoors.

 

21/ Dubai gives M U L T I C U LT U R A L a whole new perspective. 20 different nationalities in one classroom in common AND there’s every kind of cuisine available. Feel like Uzbekistani food? No problem.

 

22/ Make sure you buy extra bed linen and sleeping bags – you will host all year around because as I first mentioned – YOU ARE MOVING TO THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD.

Expat_life

I lost another friend today.

It happened quite quickly, but it normally happens like that. My friend and her family packed up their bags and headed back home on Sunday and I was crushed.

There is something so grieving about living in the most transitional country in the universe (not a true statistic but it feels that way). The news of her leaving also happened as quickly. The week before she left, this was our conversation

Meet Manny.

22 January 2013 2 Comments Category: My Blog, My Posts

I have never lived in an apartment building precinct before. So when we arrived to Dubai and moved into our apartment building, I was introduced to our security guards. A short, slim guy named Manny* and a tall hulky guy named Clive*.

One amazing factor of living in the UAE, is the level of security, or should I say the safety in living.

I don’t even know why we have ‘security guards‘ per se, but I am grateful they are available 24/7. They help with opening doors (how courteous), carrying heavy items, loading and unloading suitcases (for when we travel or when we have visitors come over) and most importantly they know my children’s faces very well. This has come in handy when Mr 7 decides he will walk off from me or when my daughter can’t carry her heavy bookbag.

About 3 months ago, I notice that Clive has gone and in his place a different security guard. So I ask Manny about Clive and I soon realise that nothing is as it seems. Everyone has a story behind their name. [Please note parts of this story have been altered for privacy purposes.]

***

Manny and Clive grew up together in a small town somewhere in Northern Ghana. Manny was always a skinny kid often picked on by the boys in the town, namely one rough kid called Jojo.

When Manny was 5, Jojo was giving him a big belting and Clive stepped in and saved him. Since then they become inseparable. Clive taught Manny how to fight back, and Manny grew strong. His tiny frame would become a muscular teenager and then a firm and strong young adult. It was his dream to become a football star, as I presume so many other children dreamed of. He claims he had talent. He tells us that he was so good his parents allowed him to quit school and concentrate on playing and practicing.

But at the age of 19 he meets his “Juliet*”. In every sense she truly is his Shakesperean Juliet, because as fate would have it, both families despised eachother. Furthermore, Juliet’s parents had her future husband chosen out, whom Manny calls “a bad, bad man” – it was Jojo. Jojo, as a grown man, was still known as a very harsh and violent man. Why Juliet’s parents had chosen him was beyond his understanding. However, Jojo came from a well off family, and “money makes you blind to your heart“, Manny concluded.

Nevertheless, Juliet had promised herself to Manny and Manny remained vigilant to his promise, too –  that they would end up happily ever after.

But Manny’s parents were also on his back to leave her. “It was her or us!“, they would shout at Manny.

Manny seemed to be out of ideas. He had tried everything to convince his parents and even her parents to bury the hatchet and forgive eachother. But both families were as stubborn as eachother. The only person who Manny could rely on was Clive.

One day, Clive told Manny that he was applying to work overseas. He was probably going to get going in a weeks time. Manny was devastated. How would he survive with his best mate? The small town he was in was suffocating. His parents’ loathing for his one true love was miserable and on top of that, he didn’t have a cent to his name.

The football team he was playing for kept promising that some “English” scout would be out to spot talent any day now.

My heart and mind were truly in separate places,” Manny tells us. “I didn’t know. Do I stay, do I wait for this guy, do I fight for this lady or do I go with Clive?

His small, dark skinned face has small lines etched on the side of his eyes. His muscular physique is evident under the white and navy security uniform. He is playing reggae music on his no name laptop, with his no name water bottle sitting close by. His tiny waist held up by the thickest belt imaginable. His shaved head beckoned a pat but his smile was what captured us. His big, radiant, Colgate smile was electric. I bet that is what Juliet loved most.

Manny decided to use his head. He made plans with Clive and plotted that he would come with him for a year (wherever that may be) and save money. He would come back to Ghana sweep Juliet of her feet (because he had the money and therefore the power to do so) and they would leave Ghana. Together.

At this stage, his parents knew of Manny wanting to work outside of Ghana were initially resistant. They soon realised that this might be the only way to get rid of Juliet and so their anger soon turned joy.

Before Manny had the chance to write or tell his Juliet, Manny’s parents had already babbled their sons’ great plans. As the old saying goes, Bad news travels fast, and within the hour Juliet had heard.

Juliet heard the news and assumed the worst – that Manny was deserting her and she would be all alone. She drove to the city centre that day, where her dad worked and confessed to him that she was actually madly in love with Jojo.

Manny tried every way to contact Juliet and eventually learned that she had driven to the city. By the evening, she had returned, and he made her sneak out of her home to chat to her.

It was too late. Her dad had already called Jojo’s parents and everything was organised for the following winter. Manny begged her not to marry Jojo. He literally begged her to marry anyone except him because he feared  Jojo’s violent nature would break Juliet’s innocent heart.

Manny’s Colgate smile has disappeared as he says…. “And this is why she married Clive.”

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EPILOGUE:

Clive flew back to Ghana 3 months ago and married Manny’s sweetheart, Juliet. Clive and Manny still remain very close friends.

* denotes a change of name.